Libya: Libyan rebels on 7 March rejected an offer from leader Qadhafi to work out a deal to step down, according to a report from Al Jazeera. According to the report, Qadhafi sent former Prime Minister Jadallah Azzouz Talhi to meet the rebels in Benghazi and offer to hold a meeting of parliament to work out the details of such a deal. Rebel sources said they rejected the offer because it would offend Qadhafi’s victims by being an “honorable” exit.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported earlier on 7 March that Qadhafi offered to resign, transfer power to the Interim National Council in Benghazi and leave Libya if the council will guarantee his and his family’s safety, provide funds for their departure as well as immunity from prosecution abroad.
Qadhafi reportedly sent a negotiator to the council in Benghazi on 6 March and said he would convene the General People’s Congress to transfer authority if his demands are met. Sources said preparations for Qadhafi’s departure had been made, including spreading rumors that he had suffered a stroke.
Comment: This is the first indication of this kind and is suspect, unless the pro-Qadhafi fighters have bolted, which does not yet seem to be the case. This looks like a test of rebel reaction rather than a serious offer.
It is doubtful that Qadhafi is ready to depart, but the reported offer is a reminder of serious problems associated with the demise of this regime. The aftermath of a Qadhafi departure, voluntary or not, promises to be difficult to control because of the nature and size of the personal patronage system he built over 40 years and the way he has ruled. There is a high risk of violent retribution once the regime collapses. That risk is increased by the lack of discipline in the rebel fighters and the recent fighting.
Libya-France: Qadhafi denounced France’s backing of the rebel Interim National Council in Benghazi as interference in Libya’s internal affairs. He asked what would happen if Libya interfered in the affairs of Corsica or Sardinia. He claimed he was a partner in the “war on terrorism” and that the “plot” in Libya was fueled by armed extremists and Islamist militant al Qaeda “sleeper cells.”
He said the rebels bearing arms in Benghazi were members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb and had no economic or political claims, adding that the Benghazi National Council is part of an Islamist trend and does not believe in democracy.
Comment: Qadhafi’s denunciation of France and description of the rebels reinforce the perception that he is delusional.